The ATO has lifted the lid on its most recent operation to stamp out GST fraud, Operation Protego, to warn the business community not to engage with fraudulent behaviour and to encourage those who may have fallen into a criminal’s trap to make a voluntary disclosure.
Recently, the ATO has seen a rise in the number of schemes where people invent fake businesses in order to submit fictitious business activity statements (BASs) and obtain illegal GST refunds. The amounts involved in these schemes are significant, with $20,000 being the average amount in fraudulently obtained GST refund payments. The ATO is currently investigating around $850 million in payments made to around 40,000 individuals, and is working with financial institutions that have frozen suspected fraudulent amounts in bank accounts.
It’s possible that not all of the individuals involved in these refund schemes know they’re doing something illegal. Ads for schemes falsely offering to help people obtain loans or government disaster payments from the ATO have been on the rise on social media platforms. But ever-changing content about all sorts of pandemic and disaster related support has become commonplace online, and many people don’t have detailed knowledge about all the requirements of Australian business and tax law. It’s really not surprising that it can be difficult to distinguish scam promotions from genuine support measures.
Tip: The ATO wants to make it clear that it does not offer loans or administer government disaster payments. Any advertisement indicating that the ATO does these things is a rort.
Government disaster payments are administered through Services Australia if they are Federal government payments, or through various state and territory government bodies if they are state or territory government payments.
Scheme promoters will also sometimes require individuals or businesses to hand over their myGov details. People who may have shared myGov login details for themselves or their businesses with scheme operators are encouraged to contact the ATO for assistance.